I have chosen WordPress as a platform for blogging due to its popularity. I’m not sure if it is the best choice for a developers’ blog as searching for a theme, fine-tuning it, searching for plugins, configuring them, bothering with limitations of visual editor (Gutenberg) – these all tasks took a lot of time and frustration. And in future, backup (application, plugins, database) will be more troublesome and I will probably have to deal with performance issues.
Maybe a static pages blogging solution like Jekyll would have been a better choice? Before I did the comparison, I decided to give WordPress a try, believing it will give me a quick start.
That’s true, the start was quick, but then I had to stop and work out little details. Mostly – how to display source code and format blog posts. Let’s start with the set of plugins I use (or plan to).
- Advanced Gutenberg ❓ – it provides many missing blocks, like tabs, accordion, map, lightbox gallery. I haven’t used it yet…
- Advanced Gutenberg Blocks ✅ – another plugin with a similar name and another set of new blocks. What I found appealing was notification area (warning, info, etc.), Unsplash images search and, primarily, code block. You can find more about the code block I use in another post, WordPress for developers – displaying source code. Probably this plugin also provides more formatting options to word in the default Paragraph block, like code span, strikethrough and colors.
- Responsive Lightbox & Gallery ❓ – a plugin to create better-looking photo galleries. I haven’t used it yet.
- TinyMCE Advanced ❓ – good old visual editor to use in Gutenberg editor. However, I haven’t had the need to use it, yet ;-). Some little features were added by Advanced Gutenberg Blocks.
- Make Tables Responsive ✅ – it will automatically add responsiveness to tables – in phone view the tables will be converted to a list-like look to make it more readable on a small screen. I write more about it in WordPress – responsive tables with headers in Gutenberg editor post.
- Slide Anything ✅ – a good enough slider/carousel that I’m using on my page, though its admin interface is quite outdated…
- Contact Form 7 ✅ – everyone says they use it, so do I… It’s a very versatile tool to create forms. I have just one form on the Contact page, so a simpler solution would suffice.
- Cookie Notice for GDPR ✅ – a cookie notice is necessary, this one maybe is not the most beautiful one, but it does its job and was very quick to set up, though it has many configurable options.
- Akismet Anti-Spam ❓ – for spam prevention. I believe I will use it one day. There is no need now.
- wpDiscuz ✅ – promising plugin for the comments, very configurable and with great UI.
- Menu Icons by ThemeIsle ✅ – this plugin allows adding icons to menu items. I used it to show the RSS icon in the navigation bar.
- Breadcrumb NavXT ✅ – provides a breadcrumb. I had to craft some code to display it.
- Contextual Related Post ✅ – a better way of displaying related posts than what was default in my theme. I tweaked it a bit (changed style and location) and currently it’s good enough for my needs.
- Tag Cloud per Category ✅ – simple widget (unfortunately without configuration) that shows tags cloud limited to the current category.
- Custom Post Type UI ✅ – a super simple editor for creating custom post types (by default you have posts and pages, but you can create other categories, e.g. products, ads, galleries, and so on).
- Advanced Custom Fields ✅ – another great tool to add own fields to post types (e.g. product name, price, image, and availability to a product post type).
- Broken Link Checker ✅ – very useful plugin to check if there are any invalid links in the site.
- Google Tag Manager for WordPress ✅ – a free Google Tag Manager plugin with quite rich features. I wrote about migration to Google Tag Manager.
- Google XML Sitemaps ✖ – it generates XML Sitemap, refreshes it and pings Google when pages change. I use Yoast’s simpler functionality instead. It should do the same job, though.
- Yoast SEO ✅ – another must-have for SEO. It looks overwhelming. It provides i.a. XML sitemap, dynamic checks of SEO score for your posts and pages, customization of appearance of your site in search engines or social media.
- Follow Buttons by AddThis ❓ – I don’t use social media related to blogging yet, so I’m not using it.
- Share Buttons by AddThis ✅ – a little complicated but efficient way to add customized sharing buttons to posts or pages. It also provides analytics in AddThis web page.
- MailPoet ✅ – I have quickly checked two newsletter plugins: MailPoet and Newsletter. I preferred the former, but I suggest checking several of these before settling on one. MailChimp for WP looks very promising, too.
- WP to Twitter ✅ – this plugin provides automatic posting to Twitter information about your posts. Although the preparation of a developer account and an application in Twitter is tedious, after that it works flawlessly. This plugin is highly configurable and allows selecting what changes should be monitored, how to write the Tweet and what URL shortener should be used.
Performance, security, administration
- Loginizer ✅ – it is a very simple yet useful plugin that enhances the security of your site. It prevents others and bots from guessing your password by making numerous guesses.
- UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup ❓ – a tool to make automatic backups and upload them to a remote location. I’m not using it because my hosting provider offers daily backups, but this plugin looks good (it may not be free, though).
- WP Super Cache ✖ – improves performance of the site by generating static files up front instead of generating every page from begging with every request from users. And it provides more options. I tried using it, but it provided a too small performance boost for my simple page to keep it.
- WP-Optimize ❓ – a tool to maintain the WordPress’ database to improve performance. Will have to run it once per several months I guess.
- WP Maintenance Mode ✅ – as the name says, it shows a “maintenance” page instead of the web site. It can be set up extremely quickly & simply and it has many advanced options.
- WP Migrate DB ✅ – I found this plugin the simplest to use to export database for a staging WordPress site with host name and root file name changed. It is not totally reliable, though, as I found some occurrences of old site name left unchanged.
- WP Word Count ✅ – this plugin shows statistics of your posts and pages with word counts and amount of publications per month.
- Term Management Tools ✅ – if you ever need to merge or bulk edit categories, tags or custom taxonomies, this tool provides great help.
E-book: How to set up free WordPress platform for IT blogs
Do you want to set up a typical blog but you don’t know how to start, which plugins to use or how to customize the site? I spent a few weeks in total doing that from scratch – from learning the ecosystem to adjusting the platform to my very specific needs. Now I want to share with my experience and make the start easier for you.